After 125 years of FA Cup combat a new expression enters the football lexicon: death or gladioli. Fans of Manchester United will hope this will not be Louis van Gaal’s lasting contribution to the English game, though it neatly sums up United’s lot in Somerset.
“It’s a gladioli game. You are dead or you receive the gladiolus flower and in cup matches it’s always like that,” said Van Gaal of tomorrow’s trip to Yeovil. The etymology is rooted in the Dutch cycling tradition, where the winner gets the flowers and the losers are buried in anonymity.
Van Gaal had experience of the phenomenon long before United were dumped four-zip at Milton Keynes in the Capital One Cup in September.
“When you play against a lower team you can assume you have to win, but it’s not like that in football. I have lost with Ajax against a lower team, Cambuur. I have lost also with Barcelona against a third division team.”
The experience against Novelda was so harrowing Van Gaal has lost the gift of recall. “I cannot remember any more. It is wiped out of my mind, but we lost, so then the criticism in Spain was very high and also in the Netherlands, so I hope that you show more, how do you say it, respect?”
He’ll be lucky. Van Gaal accepts that the FA Cup, a trophy United last won in 2004, represents his best chance of silverware in his first year at Old Trafford. “Yes, I think so. It’s the shortest way to success, so we are very interested. And I think my players [are] also.”
Manchester United injury list
Manchester United injury list
1/5 Wayne Rooney
There is uncertainty over the extent of the Manchester United captain's injury, with fears he may have suffered ligament damage to his knee during the 3-0 defeat to Everton. Unlikely to feature against West Brom and could miss the rest of the season.
2/5 Michael Carrick
Having limped off in the 4-2 derby victory over Manchester City, it's uncertain if the England midfielder will fit for this weekend. Was unable to even make the bench for the defeat to Everton.
The right-back's return to action has suffered a set-back. After making a short appearance in the 3-0 win over Tottenham in March, the Brazilian has been pushing for full fitness. However he suffered a blow to the ribs in an Under-21 match against Leicester and could miss the rest of the season.
4/5 Marcos Rojo
Having missed the games against Chelsea and Everton due to a groin injury, the Argentina international is pushing for a return and could feature this weekend.
5/5 Phil Jones
Fellow defender Phil Jones also missed the defeats to Chelsea and Evertton but the England international has returned to training after a foot complaint and could play at against West Brom.
United are expected to make changes from the side that drew at Stoke on New Year’s Day, when Ashley Young became the latest to pull up lame with a hamstring injury that is likely to keep him out for six weeks.
“I have to look to the fitness of my players,” Van Gaal said. “We have played three games in seven days, I think. But the game against Tottenham was within 48 hours so the cumulative lactic acid is bigger than ever. You have seen, for example, Ashley Young couldn’t bear that load.”
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